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Red Rag weekly column: Netanyahu the propagandist; ISIS
By: Gideon Spiro
30 September 2014 (English translation 5 October 2014)
Propaganda and the propagandist
The Israeli Prime Minister’s speech at the UN (29 September 2014) was typical propaganda. Any propaganda speech worthy of the name will include a large helping of lies, deception and falsification, along with an admixture of true facts. That admixture is intended to win the hearts of the public. All Israeli television channels and most of the radio channels broadcast the speech live.
There were no surprises. All of Netanyahu’s usual clichés appeared in the speech multiple times. God forbid he should forget to recite the mantra “The IDF is the most moral army in the world.” In Operation “Cast Lead” (December 2008-January 2009) 121 children were killed, and the IDF was the most moral army in the world. In Operation “Solid Cliff” (called “Defensive Edge” in English) of Summer 2014, over 400 children were killed, and it is still the most moral army in the world, even more so. With such Israeli logic we can come up with a mathematical formula according to which the more Palestinian children Israel kills, the more moral the Israeli army is. However moral we were in the past, now we are all the more so.
Another mantra that is compulsory material in every propaganda speech is: “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.” And indeed, Netanyahu did not omit it. How much longer will Netanyahu keep repeating that lie? The whole world knows by now that the territories Israel has ruled for 47 years are subject to a regime of apartheid; that is – rights for Jews and decrees for the Palestinians. That hackneyed mantra can be consigned to the junk-heap.
Antisemitism – oy, antisemitism, what a wonderful ally it is of Israeli propaganda! With its help we can silence every critic. And it too was in Netanyahu’s speech. And ISIS, the new friend of Israeli propaganda, is flung at every enemy of Israel. Iran is ISIS and Hamas is ISIS and Hezbollah is too. If there is no distinction between fundamentalists of various kinds, and they are all ISIS, then Netanyahu’s puzzle will not be complete if we do not include the Jewish ISIS. They are none other than the rabbis of the Occupied Territories, and of course the Hilltop Youth who are rejuvenating Zionism in their own special way, and breathing into it the spirit of religious fanaticism.
Iran – what would we do without the Iranian Bomb? Netanyahu reads about the agreement that is about to be signed between the West and Iran on the issue of the nuclear bomb, and he just about goes out of his mind. Obama is not following instructions. According to these reports, not only will Iran not be divested of its nuclear capacity, it will even be recognized as a nuclear threshold state. Netanyahu is troubled, and rightly so, by the prospect of a nuclear Iran; but what he did
say in his speech is that it was Israel that set the Middle East onto the course of a nuclear arms race. As a nuclear power itself, Israel cannot deny that status to others. The safe way to avoid being threatened by nuclear bombs is to divest the Middle East of nuclear weapons, which means subjecting Israel to a regime of disarmament and demilitarization. But Netanyahu wants both the disarmament of Iran
for German-made Israeli nuclear submarines to keep patrolling. That will not pass. If Israel does not disarm, we will have a nuclear Iran.
In his speech, Netanyahu compared ISIS to Nazi Germany. Just as the Nazis believed in the supremacy of the Aryan race, so does ISIS believe that Islam is superior to all other religions. To me, that comparison is not particularly problematic in its own right; but it looks strange to me coming from the Prime Minister of a state most of the ministers of which, including himself, as well as its Knesset Members, soldiers, settlers and rabbis, all of them part of the ruling elite, believe that the Jews are the Chosen People, that God chose us from among all the peoples. Why? Because It Is Written in the Holy Bible. According to the prevailing interpretation in Israel today, the status of Chosen People permits us to abuse, expel, kill and rob the people that was living here long before the first Zionist set foot in the Holy Land. Does this mean that Netanyahu and his friends are ISIS? The reader will judge.
Completely absent from the speech was the Occupation. Why trouble the listeners with such trivialities? A visitor from outer space landing at the hall where Netanyahu spoke would not know at all that Israel is a colonial power that has been subjugating the Palestinian people for nearly half a century now, trampling its rights underfoot, stealing its land and committing war crimes. He would hear the honeyed words of a good fairy who yearns for peace, which has not been realized due to one evil man: Abu Mazen. Another of the lies that festooned Netanyahu’s speech.
Which brings us to the personal treatment of Abu Mazen. Ever since he accused Israel of genocide they have been rubbing their hands with glee in Netanyahu’s office, because by doing so Abu Mazen lobbed a softball to Netanyahu. All they have to do is pull out of the file his shoddy doctoral thesis on the Holocaust, in which he minimized its dimensions in a way that cannot be interpreted as other than denial. Abu Mazen did in fact retract what he said about the Holocaust in that thesis, but that is not of interest in a time of conflict, and that dubious academic document is always sitting on the shelf and can always be pulled out as needed.
Abu Mazen was wrong when he accused Israel of genocide. And not just because there are no extermination camps here (after all, in Rwanda it was proven that genocide can be carried out using nothing but machetes), but because it was too categorical an accusation. At this stage in the conflict it is not true. There is definitely place to draw comparisons to the 1930s in Germany, but they have to be relevant. If Abu Mazen had chosen his words with more care, they would have been received differently. For example, he could have mentioned that more and more Israelis are thinking in genocidal terms. To the best of my recollection it was Yitzhak Rabin who started that when he declared that as far as he was concerned Gaza could sink into the sea. That statement had a genocidal dimension. Abu Mazen could have said that in the last war the nearly two million residents of Gaza were imprisoned between the sea and walls and electrified fences – nowhere to escape! Thousands killed, tens of thousands wounded, hundreds of thousands made homeless because of the massive destruction caused by the bombing (refugees twice over), hospitals lacking in equipment and medications, children with limbs blown off lying in the corridors because all the space in the rooms is occupied, the thunder of the planes and the bombs, clouds of smoke like nuclear mushrooms – all that created a disaster on the scale of a tsunami, caused not by nature but by human beings. In such moments it looks like Rabin’s vision – the drowning of Gaza – is coming true. As I said, if he had said that, his words would have been received and understood differently.
If he had said that the cry “Death to Arabs!” that is being heard more often at demonstrations reflects genocidal values, he would have been right. If he had compared the Israeli treatment of Palestinian property to the Nazis’ attitude to Jewish property in the 1930s after Hitler’s rise to power, supported by studies that prove that there is not a single settlement that has not stolen privately-owned Palestinian land, he would have been right. Recently it has been learned that even the police headquarters in the Occupied Territories was built on private land. And this subject is also known to me personally from my family, which in Germany was affluent and owned property, including agricultural lands, and arrived in Palestine with nothing after their property was stolen, just as Palestinian property has been stolen by the State and the settlements. The difference between Israel and Germany on this matter (so far) is that democratic Germany returned the property to its owners or their heirs, and Israel, “the only democracy …” etc. has been conducting a consistent policy of plunder of private Palestinian property for 47 years now. If Abu Mazen had said that the Israeli Occupation is crueler than the German occupation of Denmark, he would have been right. If he had said that the files at the IDF General Staff contain a plan for ethnic cleansing (provisional code-name: “Banishing Amalek”?) he would have been right. But he preferred to make a premature categorical accusation, and Netanyahu exploited that to the hilt.
The Israeli effort to focus the conflict with the Palestinians on the issue of genocide does an injustice to Abu Mazen. Unlike Netanyahu, who proposed no political horizon, never mind a peace plan – “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be”  – Abu Mazen has proposed a political plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace. His plan is to compel Israel to end the Occupation and withdraw to the lines of 4 June 1967 (the Green Line) in a three-year staged process at the end of which there will be two states, Palestine and Israel (still relevant?). It is worthy of support from proponents of peace and human rights. All this is to be backed by the United Nations Security Council, which has enforcement authority. Netanyahu will euphorically and arrogantly reject this plan because he has a US veto in his pocket. This is the destructive aspect of US support. As long as the US continues to arm Israel and veto any resolution that requires Israel to take action to end the Occupation, and as long as Germany keeps providing us with nuclear submarines, the chances of change are approximately zero and the vampires will keep quenching their thirst.
The declared objective of ISIS is to set up an Islamic caliphate. On their way to that objective they are murdering people in appalling numbers, and with unbelievable cruelty, slicing off heads in front of cameras. The organization stands before us as a beacon of hate that shows the depths to which religious fanaticism can take us.
Some of the organization’s fighters are young volunteers from Muslim communities in Europe who were captivated by the organization’s charms. Each one of them will return to their country of origin with a sense of religious mission. The fear is that they will carry out terrorist attacks against the “unbelievers”. The problem transcends any particular country, and requires an international coalition to defend against the danger of terror attacks on civilians. Democratic states are unsure how to struggle against the danger without losing their democracy, without devolving into police states that label all Muslims as enemies of the nation.
There are some who believe that one way is to attack the organization in the battlefield through massive bombardment from the air. I admit that I have no magic solution or silver bullet to solve the problem. But I doubt that aerial bombardment is the answer. Accumulated experience shows that bombardment by the air force cannot eliminate an idea, and moreover it harms innocents.
A special type found within fundamentalist organizations are those known as “repentants”.  Some of them are determined to prove that they are “more Catholic than the Pope”. The ISIS throat-cutter who speaks English with a London accent is apparently an English rapper whose mind has been distorted by religion. As these lines are being written, I can think of two examples in Israel. Both are generals, formerly secular Jews, who saw the Divine light, and without getting any authorization from God (neither in writing nor orally), use His name to commit war crimes. The two generals are: Brigadier General Avichai Rontzki, who was the chief military rabbi, and Brigadier General Effi Eitam, who was the commander of the Givati Brigade, and after his departure from the military a Knesset Member and a Minister for the National Religious Party. Both are distinguished by a low democratic threshold and they enlist God to justify the Occupation and apartheid without getting any power of attorney from the Divinity Himself. God is merciful and compassionate, but at the same time he is a God of vengeance and recompense.  He sits helplessly on His throne and does not know how to control the hooligans who take His name in vain. If the High Court of Justice cannot do it, how can He? How can you explain that to ISIS without losing your head?
There is a lot of injustice in the world – poverty, discrimination and racism. God has not yet solved any of it. Looks like there is still no substitute for democratic struggle to extirpate the evil.
1. Ecclesiastes 1:9.
2. The author uses the term “hozrim beteshuva”, which refers to formerly irreligious or non-practicing Jews who “repent” of their former ways and “return” to the practice of the Jewish religion, typically in a very orthodox form.
3. Deuteronomy 32:35.
Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent
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